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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Parkland and Growing Up In Dallas

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I spent the day yesterday as Cookie Monster and by the time it got dark I’d had enough of Halloween so Amy and I watched Parkland last night. The reviews were so-so but we both thought it was outstanding. Paul Giamatti was perfect as Abraham Zapruder and I seem to like Billy Bob Thornton better and better as he ages (he’d be one of the two people I’d pick to play my dad Stan in his biography – the other is Alan Arkin).

I grew up in Dallas – I lived there from 1968 to 1983 when I moved to Boston to go to college. I’ve only lived in a few other places – Blytheville, Arkansas from 1965 – 1966, Boston in 1967 and again from 1983 – 1995, and Boulder since 1995. So Dallas looms large over my own personal development.

The Kennedy assassination happened two years before I was born. But once I was old enough to hear about Nixon and Vietnam, I started hearing about how the most loved president ever was murdered in Dallas. I rarely spent any time in downtown Dallas as a kid and never really knew my way around until I started running the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving as a teenager. I still can’t find my way around downtown Dallas even with a GPS, but if you ask me the radio station and TV call letters KRLD and KERA immediately pop into my brain.

Parkland Hospital was one of the hospitals my dad made rounds at. I don’t remember going there with him, although I’m sure I did. I hated being in the hospital – I hated the smells, the lights, the noises, and most of all the sick people. The hustle and bustle. The quiet moments followed by chaos. And I never, ever wanted to touch anything. I didn’t realize I had OCD at the time, but it makes perfect sense to me in hindsight how uncomfortable I was whenever I was on rounds with my dad. I stopped around age 10 – I just told him I didn’t want to do it anymore and that was that.

Watching the movie last night was deeply immersive. The hospital scenes – first of Kennedy, then of Oswald, were extremely uncomfortable for me. It wasn’t sensationalized ER or Grey’s Anatomy tripe – it was intense, real, and very bloody. And hopeless. We knew Kennedy was going to die, but we kept rooting for him and hoping for a miracle. The helplessness, sadness, and hopelessness of the situation oozed through every scene.

The historical moments felt just right. Today, there aren’t as many cowboy hats in Dallas, but when I was a kid everyone wore one. And in the movie, there were plenty of them. Parkland felt dark, industrial, and dingy – just like I remembered hospitals feeling when I was a kid. Lots of turquoise. Anger popped out at unexpected times – sometimes with incredibly velocity. Everyone smoked all the time. And when the sky was blue, it was a bright blue – one that made you want to shade your eyes with your hand.

When I moved to Boston in 1983, I didn’t really connect that Kennedy was loved by Boston and “those hicks in Dallas killed him.” By the time I’d lived in Boston for four years, my identity as being from Dallas – and growing up in Texas – had faded, but there was a period of time the first few years when I was very aware of a tragedy that defined the city for many people who didn’t live there for 20+ years after it happened.

Fifty years later, the day still feels oddly familiar. Dealey Plaza. Jackie Kennedy. The Zapruder film. Lee Harvey Oswald. And Parkland Hospital. All phrases that are associated with the Kennedy Assassination. Powerful.

Gravity – The Best Movie in “A While”

Comments (19)

I saw Gravity on Friday night. I can’t remember being more immersed in a movie since I saw Star Wars 36 years ago. It could have been because I was wiped out from the week. It could have been the saki I had at the hibachi place before the movie. It could have been the Imax 3D stuff. Or it could have just been because it was an amazing movie.

If you haven’t seen the extended trailer, it’s worth five minutes of your life.

Now – this is a movie. It’s not scientifically perfect. But it’s so otherworldly that there isn’t much suspension of disbelief needed. And it only really has two actors – Sandra Bullock and George Clooney – and 95% of the focus of the movie is on them. Bullock has made her share of crap lately but she is incredible in this movie. Clooney was as expected. There was only one hokey scene that fortunately only lasted about three minutes. The music was excellent. And there were endless double entendres that jumped out at me including a perfect moment near the end for a Jaws reference that they gratefully omitted.

Imax 3D was a special bonus. I don’t do much 3D as I wear glasses and I find that the glasses on glasses action creates weird effects on the edges. But that didn’t matter in this case – the 3D action was so incredibly dramatic and powerful that the few times things got out of whack I just adjusted my glasses and everything was amazing again.

I will definitely be seeing Gravity again on the big screen. Wow. Space is a pretty cool place.

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